Trying out online database services (see my movie list!)

arts and entertainment, movies, technology

Microsoft Access is for masochists.  It’s expensive, a pain to learn, and—frankly—quite overkill for nearly any home application.

So, for too long, folks like myself have kept lists in Excel.  This works… sort of.  But it’s a pain to share, and it lacks a lot of the usefully-database’y features that make working with data multidimensionally both useful and fun.

For instance, I’m trying to keep track of where I’ve traveled around the world, what sets of pictures I’ve taken, where those pictures reside (online, in photo albums, etc.), who I have yet to share them with, and so on.  I *could* do lots of messy filtering and sorting on Excel as I try to handle related action items, but a database (featuring multiple persistent views) would be so much easier!

Well… dabbledb and Zoho Creator to the rescue!  Below I’ll talk about my initial experiences using both services, some advantages I perceive in each, and I’ll also demo my first “app”—a filterable/sortable list of movies I’ve seen and want to see (all 217 of them so far!)

Clearly, there are lots of professional uses for databases.  But here are a few hobbyist uses I’ve thought of off the top of my head:
– Managing and showing off stamp / comic book / music / other collections
– Dealing with rosters (Little League, Church members, volunteer list, etc.)
– Working with a personal or team todo list.

*  *  *

Zoho Creator (“ZC”) is, at least for now, free.  Dabbledb (“ddb”) offers a 30 day free trial, and various plans after that starting at $10/month.

Getting started on either service is a snap.  You can easily import your existing data just by copying the cells from Excel and pasting one big block into a text box in either service.  Both of them handled this data quite smartly!

Some other things both services have in common:
– Very passionate developers who regularly participate in discussions online about their services.
– The ability for users to put views and even forms on other Web sites.
– Active user forums.
– Helpful getting-started / overview videos

Some advantages specific to ZC:
– A unique and seemingly powerful scripting language
– Custom error messages and validation
– Multi-select-list fields.
– The ability to put an “active” view into another Web page

Some advantages specific to ddb:
– It’s fast!
– Handy grouping function
– Superior ease of data entry
– More choices of field types
– Multidimensionality (a bit hard to explain… but you can define relationships between tables)

I’ve included my movie database (in ZC) as a sample below.  Have fun searching, filtering, sorting… and don’t worry, it’s read-only, so you can’t hurt anything! 😀

6 comments… add one
  • Krithiga Jul 31, 2006

    Hi Adam,

    Really cool app you’ve created – especially the ranking based on “repeat viewing” points. Thanks for trying out Zoho Creator. Hope you find sharing your movie-DB with your friends much easier this way. Regards,
    Krithiga
    http://www.zoho.com

  • Roughic Jul 31, 2006

    Hi Adam, thanks for trying out Zoho Creator. Your movie database looks cool. I am happy to see my fav movie “Finding Nemo” in your list. Hope you had embedded a form asking for people’s personal recommendations :-D, I would have recommended Majid Majidi’s ‘Children of Heaven’. Its a lovely movie.

    Coming to your comparison, I would like to clarify our state on the points where you consider Dabble has an advantage.

    1. Speed- We have been working on moving Zoho Creator to grid set up, access speed shouldn’t be a problem once it is up.

    2.Grouping Function- We are working on it.

    3.Ease of data entry- You have any suggestions for us?

    4.More field types- We are also working on adding more field types like url, image, auto generate number field.

    5.Multidimensionality- Zoho Creator supports relationships between forms(tables)now. I hope you overlooked that :?. While adding fields to your form (Eg: Student Form) you can find an option “Import Data from Form” where you can import ‘Department Name’ field (from Department Form) into ‘Student Form’ as a picklist. This creates a link between ‘Student’ and the ‘Department’.

    Thanks again for using Zoho Creator Adam!
    ~Roughic

  • gorgeoux Aug 16, 2006

    Great article and demo, many thanks. I posted about it on my blog (http://gorgeoux.blogspot.com/2006/08/tired-of-excel-i-am.html). Had to 🙂

  • Romer!can Aug 17, 2006

    Yo-ho, matey! 

    I arrived here via the ever-interesting Cheeky Cheezy blog and wanted to share the love.  I’m glad to have shown up last in line to learn about Zoho’s ease in databasey ajaxiness… because now I’m aware of it.

    There’s another venue that might merit 3 minutes of your time.  Ning, which I stumbled across while poking around the Zend Framework site.  They market their Free service differently than Zoho, but I believe you’ll find some commonality.

    Now, if only I could remember the name of that amazing Thai restaurant near the multiplex theatre in walking distance of Hotel Adagio in Union Square….

  • Kobnet Jun 21, 2010

    have you looked at My DataBase Online? it’s a really powerful tool and super easy to use. check it out at http://www.mydatabaseonline.com

  • ThatAdamGuy Jun 21, 2010

    Haven’t checked that out yet, Kobnet, but — just curious — are you affiliated with that site? If so, it’d be great if you’d note that so we can make an informed decision 🙂

What do you think?